Q&A with Headmaster Alfred (Rik) F. Dugan III Of Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart

When was Princeton Academy founded and what grades does it serve?

Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart was founded in 1998. We are an independent all-boys school serving boys in kindergarten through grade eight.

What does it mean to be a Sacred Heart school?

Being a Sacred Heart school means that we devote ourselves to developing creative, compassionate, and courageous young men who will be leaders of a just society. Our mission is fueled by five Sacred Heart Goals that are at the heart of all that we do. We educate to a personal and active faith in God, to a deep respect for intellectual values, to a social awareness which impels to action, to the building of community as a Christian value, and to personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom. We are a Sacred Heart school for all; the strength of our community lies in the diversity of the wonderful families who comprise it.

Why an all-boys education?

At Princeton Academy, all that we do is premised on bringing out the best in boys. We want our boys to thrive. It is vitally important to create a positive association for learning as early as possible in a boy’s developmental journey. Our entire program is based on a philosophy of honoring boyhood, seeing each boy for the unique individual that he is. We believe that boys learn best when they are navigators of their own learning, deductively, when given clear goals and feedback; when they are not afraid of failure; and through relational experiences. Our young men love to read, they are poets, they are artists, they are musicians, they are lifelong learners, they are athletes, and they are kind and caring individuals. Looking to the future, we are guided by our five-year strategic plan, Epic Vision: Soaring with Heart, and inspired by our vision — Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart in 2021: Leading a National Reinvention of Boys’ Education for a New Generation of Enlightened Men. Our world needs this now.

Describe the history of the campus and current sustainability initiatives.

We are blessed by our 50-acre campus in Princeton. We view our full space as one large outdoor classroom that our boys can leverage to learn about themselves, each other, and our world through exploration and play. In addition to the naturally-wooded learning areas on the perimeter of our campus that provide opportunity for discovery, we have a geodesic dome that serves as a year-round greenhouse where our boys can cultivate fruits and vegetables; a Low Ropes Course where our boys grow through challenge and self-discovery in an experiential manner; and Our Lady’s Grotto, which is a quiet place of reflection nestled into the beauty of nature. Our cross-country running trail circles our perimeter and complements our adjacent soccer/lacrosse field, baseball diamond, and our McPherson Athletic and Convocation Center.

We are proud that Princeton Academy is one of the most environmentally-sustainable schools in Princeton, relying on 40 geothermal units and over 700 solar panels to provide renewable energy to our campus.

Give some examples of school traditions.

In many ways, the soul of Princeton Academy is most represented in its traditions. We are proud to be the Hawks, paying homage to the plethora of raptors that soar over our campus each day. A group of hawks circling in the sky is referred to as a kettle, and with value placed on community, when we gather we say we are “kettling up.” We begin each day with Morning Handshake, where each young man is seen and greeted upon entering school for the day. Every Friday, our boys “kettle up” for Friday Thank Yous to express their sincere gratitude for moments that matter in their lives. Lower School boys begin each day with a morning run and end their day in song. On the first day of school our eighth graders receive their Princeton Academy ties and shake the hands of all their peers in kindergarten through grade seven. These same young men graduate in our Alumni Courtyard and then jump into the garden fountain upon receiving their diplomas — symbolic to say the least! One of the great Princeton Academy traditions occurs after graduation when our young men voluntarily return to campus to see their former teachers. It is striking to witness the genuine love and appreciation our alumni have for those who contributed to this unique and transformational journey in their lives.

How does Princeton Academy prepare boys for life after middle school, and what are some examples of secondary school placement?

In our Princeton Academy Portrait of a Graduate, we describe a Princeton Academy graduate as an active citizen, lifelong learner, and spiritual individual by focusing on integral aspects: Who He Is and What He Does. Our outcomes are driven primarily by the fact that our young men are kind, empathic, humble, moral, give back, communicate with understanding, grow in faith, and are respectful of others. Our young men earn admission to the finest day and boarding secondary schools in the state, nation, and the world. Our thoughtful and intentional secondary school placement process is predicated on supporting a young man and his family along this important journey. Our ultimate focus is on fit, recognizing that each young man is different. Beginning with the end in mind, we help to steward a young man’s journey to a secondary school where he will thrive. Princeton Academy is well known for its excellence in secondary school placement due to the success of our graduates and the contributions they make to their respective secondary schools. One of the many benefits of a K-8 education lies in our students’ opportunity to lead as eighth graders and gain a sense of self so as to contribute their unique identities in a new secondary school environment. Because our young men are seen and heard at Princeton Academy, they are needed and known at top secondary schools where they are naturally engaged as leaders from day one.